There are many tea varieties to choose from, some of which offer unique health benefits.
Certain teas may be particularly beneficial for people with diabetes and help promote blood sugar control, reduce inflammation, and enhance insulin sensitivity — all of which are essential for diabetes management.
This article explains the benefits of tea for people with diabetes, lists the best teas to drink for diabetes control, and explains how to enjoy tea in the healthiest and safest way.
How does tea affect diabetes control?
Consumed by over two-thirds of the global population, tea is one of the most popular beverages in the world.
There are many types of tea, including true teas made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, which include black, green, and oolong tea, and herbal teas, such as peppermint and chamomile tea.
Both true teas and herbal teas have been associated with a variety of health benefits due to the powerful plant compounds that they contain, and research has shown that some teas have properties that are particularly beneficial for people with diabetes.
Diabetes is a group of conditions characterised by chronically high blood sugar levels resulting from either the inadequate secretion of the blood-sugar-regulating hormone insulin, reduced sensitivity to insulin, or both.
For people with diabetes, tight blood sugar regulation is critical, and choosing foods and beverages that optimise healthy blood sugar control is key.
Opting for calorie-free or very low calorie beverages like unsweetened tea over sugary beverages like soft drink and sweetened coffee drinks is an excellent way to optimise diabetic control.
Plus, some tea varieties contain plant compounds that fight cellular damage and reduce inflammation and blood sugar levels, making them a great choice for people with diabetes.
What’s more, drinking unsweetened tea can help keep your body hydrated. Staying properly hydrated is essential for every bodily process, including blood sugar regulation.
In fact, research shows that dehydration is associated with high blood sugar levels in people with diabetes, highlighting the importance of regular fluid intake.
Best teas for people with diabetes
Research has shown that certain teas have anti-inflammatory, blood-sugar-lowering, and insulin-sensitising properties, making them excellent choices for diabetes management.
The following teas are some of the best options for people with diabetes.
Green tea offers a multitude of health benefits, some of which are particularly beneficial for those with diabetes. For example, drinking green tea may help reduce cellular damage, decrease inflammation, and optimise blood sugar control.
Some of the compounds in green tea, including epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), have been shown to stimulate the uptake of glucose into skeletal muscle cells, therefore reducing blood sugar levels.
A review of 17 studies that included 1,133 people with and without diabetes found that green tea intake significantly reduced fasting blood sugar levels and hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), a marker of long-term blood sugar control.
What’s more, studies show that drinking green tea may help reduce the chances of developing diabetes in the first place.
Note that these studies generally advise drinking 3–4 cups of green tea per day to reap the benefits mentioned above.
Black tea contains potent plant compounds, including theaflavins and thearubigins, which have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and blood-sugar-lowering properties.
A rodent study suggests that black tea intake interferes with carb absorption by suppressing certain enzymes and may help keep blood sugar levels in check.
A study in 24 people, some of whom had prediabetes, demonstrated that consuming black tea beverages alongside a sugary drink significantly decreased blood sugar levels, compared with a control group.
Another rodent study suggested black tea may also help encourage healthy insulin secretion by protecting the insulin-secreting cells of the pancreas.
Human studies have demonstrated benefits as well, but the mechanism of action is not clear.
As is the case with green tea, studies on black tea generally recommend drinking 3–4 cups per day to reap notable benefits.
Hibiscus tea, also known as sour tea, is a brightly coloured, tart tea made from the petals of the Hibiscus sabdariffa plant.
Hibiscus petals contain a variety of beneficial polyphenol antioxidants, including organic acids and anthocyanins, which give hibiscus tea its bright ruby colour.
Consuming hibiscus tea has been shown to have numerous beneficial effects on health, ranging from lowering blood pressure levels to reducing inflammation.
High blood pressure is common in people with diabetes. In fact, it’s estimated that over 73% of Australians with diabetes also have high blood pressure.
Drinking hibiscus tea may help those with diabetes control their blood pressure levels.
One study in 60 people with diabetes demonstrated that those who drank 240 mL of hibiscus tea twice a day for 1 month experienced significant reductions in systolic blood pressure (the top number of blood pressure readings), compared with black tea.
Additionally, studies show that hibiscus may help reduce insulin resistance.
Note that hibiscus tea may interact with the blood pressure medication hydrochlorothiazide, a diuretic commonly prescribed for those with high blood pressure.
Cinnamon is a popular spice that has reported antidiabetic properties.
Many people take concentrated cinnamon supplements to help reduce their blood sugar levels, but studies show that sipping on a cup of cinnamon tea may have benefits as well.
A study in 30 adults with normal blood sugar levels demonstrated that drinking 100 mL of cinnamon tea before ingesting a sugar solution led to decreased blood sugar levels, compared with a control group.
Another recent study showed that taking 6 grams of a cinnamon supplement daily for 40 days significantly decreased pre-meal glucose levels in healthy adults.
There are several mechanisms by which cinnamon may help reduce blood sugar levels, including slowing the release of sugar into the bloodstream, enhancing cellular glucose uptake, and promoting insulin sensitivity.
Nevertheless, a 2013 review found that although cinnamon can significantly benefit fasting blood sugar levels and lipid levels, it doesn’t seem to be effective for controlling average blood sugar or HbA1C.
More human research is needed before strong conclusions on cinnamon’s effect on blood sugar levels can be made.
Turmeric is a vibrant orange spice that’s well known for its powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Curcumin, the main active component in turmeric, has been studied for its blood-sugar-lowering properties.
Studies suggest that curcumin may promote healthy blood sugar levels by improving insulin sensitivity and increasing glucose uptake in tissues.
A 2020 review of human and animal studies found that curcumin intake was associated with significantly reduced blood sugar and blood lipid levels.
Plus, the review noted that curcumin intake may help reduce cellular damage, decrease levels of pro-inflammatory compounds, and improve kidney function.
Chamomile tea has been associated with a number of health benefits, including promoting healthy blood sugar regulation.
A study in 64 people with diabetes found that participants who drank 150 mL of chamomile tea made with 3 grams of chamomile 3 times per day after meals for 8 weeks experienced significant reductions in HbA1c and insulin levels, compared with a control group.
Chamomile tea not only has the potential to optimize blood sugar control but also may help protect against oxidative stress, an imbalance that can lead to diabetes-related complications.
The same study mentioned above found that the participants who drank chamomile tea had significant increases in antioxidant levels, including those of glutathione peroxidase, a major antioxidant that helps combat oxidative stress.
Potential risks related to tea intake for people with diabetes
While a variety of teas may improve health in people with diabetes, it’s important to consume tea in a way that promotes healthy blood sugar regulation.
Many people like to sweeten their tea with sugar or honey to enhance the flavour.
While drinking a lightly sweetened beverage occasionally is unlikely to significantly affect blood sugar levels, choosing unsweetened tea is the best choice for people with diabetes.
This is because added sugar, especially in the form of sweetened beverages, causes blood sugar levels to increase, which can lead to poor blood sugar control over time.
A diet high in added sugar may also lead to other adverse health effects, such as weight gain and increased blood pressure levels.
Drinking unsweetened tea is best for everyone’s health, especially those with altered blood sugar control. If you want to add some flavour to your tea without adding sugar, try a squeeze of lemon or a dash of cinnamon.
Additionally, keep an eye out for added sugars on ingredient and nutrition fact labels when buying pre-bottled tea products.
Many herbs have the potential to interact with various medications, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider before taking herbal supplements or drinking a new herbal tea.
The bottom line
Certain teas contain powerful compounds that may benefit people with diabetes.
Research suggests that green tea, turmeric tea, hibiscus tea, cinnamon tea, lemon balm tea, chamomile tea, and black tea may offer impressive antidiabetic effects, making them good choices for people with diabetes.
However, it’s important to choose unsweetened tea drinks whenever possible and always check with your healthcare provider before introducing a new herbal tea into your diet.
This article was originally posted https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/tea-for-diabetics#best-teas